For each of the families of "Five Farms," the question looms large: Who will take over the farm? "Family Farm" features the next generation — the young people in each farm family. Who will continue to farm, who won't, and why? Some have gone away to college or to explore work off the farm, and have returned with new ideas and new energy. Others leave farming for good. The program also explores community connections, from church to social activism, that are part of rural life.
A public radio employee's inquiry to Executive Producer Wesley Horner about the "Five Farms" theme music resulted in a surprising response.
Wes — The marimba/viola/piano piece that you use on the "Five Farms" sampler video is haunting. What is it? Can you send me information about the composer and performers?
Roger — You've found me out. The uncredited composer is me.
I started life in public radio volunteering at WGBH in Boston while a composition major — and viola minor (thus, the prominent role of the oft-maligned and overlooked viola in the music for "Five Farms") — at New England Conservatory of Music. I produced a show then with the not very creative, but straightforward, title "The Composer Show." My first paying gig at 'GBH was on the overnight shift, trying to stay awake from Saturday night until dawn Sunday morning. One could say that public radio saved me from certain oblivion, teaching music theory somewhere.
My "real" music, trust me, is a far cry from the "Farms" theme music: My fellow college students and I competed hard, it seemed, to make our 12-tone, serialized really-wild-and-out-there music as difficult as we could. If one was lucky, it was also beautiful. My ever-patient mentor was the brilliant composer Donald Martino.
I haven't written anything for a very long time. But our "Five Farms" series producer, John Biewen, persuaded me to dust off my manuscript paper and give composing the theme a shot. A week of scribbling and lot of used erasers later, and we had music. It was a lot of fun to create that.
Part of the theory was that if I "commissioned" original music from myself (I worked cheap), we'd neatly sidestep unpleasant budget and rights issues. Seemed like a good idea.
To record, I drafted two undergraduate students from my alma mater, Kalindi Bellach (viola) and Yi Wei (marimba and claves). I played the piano parts myself. We spent an evening recording at the huge and gorgeous new WGBH studios. Antonio Oliart-Ros, former principal flutist with the Mexico City Philharmonic, was the recording engineer and co-producer for the session. And there you have it. Now all we need are lyrics.
Thanks for the high compliments!